At this Tuesday night's city council meeting, agenda item #6, the staff will recommend that almost $44,000.00 be spent to have the water budget (target) for each of the 3,800 water customers in the city recalculated by outside companies, SRI/Raftelis. A formula based on lot size, number of people, hardscape and lawn/plant areas, pool, and house size will be used instead of the 2013 base level currently being used.
In the test cases the new formula always came up with a lower target, even for the water customers who were at the lowest usage levels in the city.
There may be some justification for the city reevaluation of the target levels for each customer, but why do we have to spend nearly $44,000.00 to do this. Also, be ready for water rate increases. After all of our target levels are lowered and we cut our water use down even more the Water Department's revenue will go down, so they will have to raise the rates to make up for the lost revenue.
Something is wrong with this picture.
Of course, we all remember those Raftelis fellows from the most recent "water rate increase process." Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. being the company that built a case for water rate hikes in 2013 that the City Council found compelling enough to eagerly pass.
When you consider that Nancy Walsh was the Mayor at that time, and Josh Moran was there as well, you can see that there really was a burning need for skilled professional advice. Raftelis came up with the political and logistic ammo they needed, a Prop 218 challenge failed, and now water rates seem to be going up every couple of months. Like cuckoo clockwork.
There is a catch, however. Here is how I described the hiring of Ratelis Financial Consultants for the purpose of raising water rates back in June of 2013.
You see that? The entire water rate consultation deal back in 2013 cost $48,000. This for a huge series of water rate hikes designed to somehow pull the so-called "water enterprise" out of its financial death spiral.
Now the solons running City Hall are asking the City Council for some additional water consultant cash. They need it to pay nearly $44,000 for a couple of things, including hiring Raftelis all over again. Or at least someone very much like them. The reason this time being to advise City Hall on how to properly establish the process for fining residents who use too much water.
That total amount, of course, is very close what City Hall paid Raftelis two years ago for clues on how to raise water rates in a way that would avoid too much community calamity. So does this mean City Hall figures that this nearly $44K amount is a wise investment because they'll be raking in so much more in additional water revenue through fines?
Can it be the city believes they'll be pulling in the same levels of extra money from water use abuse fining that they did from 2013's serial water rate hikes? Is there some kind of a established scale or metrics here based on recommended resident water cost returns for money invested in consultants?
Let's turn to the Staff Report for this particular agenda item and see if any sense whatsoever can be found there.
So why would a city government that consistently complains about being broke, and therefore desperately needs to raise utility taxes, spend an additional $44,000 on consultants if they didn't see an opportunity for financial gain? After all, our City Hall claim that it needs to recoup money on everything it spends.
So why so much? Especially now? Is figuring out acceptable individual water use levels and fines really all that difficult?
One other thing
For the item dealing with the certification of the "Final Environmental Impact Report" for the General Plan update, the following can be found in the staff report:
Why would the city want to delay its historic survey? And why hasn't it already been done? Or, as one commenter put it this morning:
Apparently some people want us to be.